A freak May snowstorm provides the perfect cover for murder in a suburban strip mall.
The merchants of Benson Plaza in tony Brookhills, Wis., have enough to worry about already. Their landlord, Way Benson, with the backing of his ex-wife Aurora and his new squeeze Naomi Verdeaux, has pretty much decided to evict them one by one to make room for natural-foods giant Gross National Produce. Luc Romano and his daughter Tien have already put a pickle beside the last sandwich An’s Foods will ever serve; fishmonger Jacque Oui has packed up his scaling knives; and Rudy Fischer is ready to take down his barber pole. Coffee-shop owner Maggy Thorsen’s hope that Uncommon Grounds will somehow be left to coexist with the health-food megastore dims as she sees the Bible Store shuttered, putting 80-something Sophie Daystrom out of work. Maggie is temporarily distracted from her real-estate woes when a sudden drop in temperature produces a rare snowstorm. But the initial charm quickly turns to alarm as the drifts pile up and Benson Plaza’s tenants are trapped in their shops. When the electricity fails and they look for owner Way to plow them out, they find his body in the parking lot, stabbed in the back with a cleaver. Armed with flashlights from Goddard’s Pharmacy, Maggy (Bean There, Done That, 2008) leads her mighty band of retailers on a quest to capture the killer.
Balzo’s foray into English country-house territory doesn’t quite translate to the Midwest.